Friday, February 26, 2010

1964 - THE CARPETBAGGERS, an interesting companion piece to Scorsese's The Aviator

Probably the kind of film that Hollywood does best, create entertaining trash out of a trashy book.

The producer Joesph E. Levine, was famous for foisting junk on movie audiences like Godzilla and all of those Italian dubbed Hercules movies.  He had a second career making high quality films like The Graduate, Two Women and Contempt.  But he always seemed to be more interested in producing  things like Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and Mad Monster Party.


The Carpetbaggers was based on a book by Harold Robbins who used the life story of Howard Hughes to drive his plot.  Levine hired screenwriter John Michael Hayes to adapt the book.

John Michael Hayes is an interesting person in Hollywood.  A writer who began his career on the top of the mountain writing for Alfred Hitchcock on films like Rear Window and To Catch a Thief.  He had a fight with Hitchcock and it was all down hill from that point.  Hayes ended up being under contract to Joseph E Levine where he wrote crap like Harlow, Walking Tall and Where Love Has Gone.

John Michael Hayes was a pro.  He was good at characterization and dialog and very good at the pseudo sex talk dialog thing that worked really well on his Hitchcock films.  The Carpetbaggers however was not one of his high points.  In this film all his smutty dialog is pretty bad.  However, it is also very funny.

Levine put together a pretty high class production with a good cast.  George Peppard plays the Howard Hughes part, Carroll Baker is the Jean Harlow character.  1940's star Alan Ladd has second billing in the cast but doesn't have much to do although he does get in a good fight with Peppard towards the end of the film. 

Getting back to the Martin Scorsese connection.  Scorsese also did a film on Howard Hughes, called The Aviator.  But the legendary Marty missed one important detail in his film.  He forgot to make it entertaining.

The life of Howard Hughes, with the airplanes and the films and all the girls was a real life Harold Robbins novel.  Scorsese never figured that out.  Joseph E. Levine did, that's why The Carpetbaggers is a more superior and entertaining film compared to The Aviator.

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